(SusannaSonata, out Fri 22 Feb 2019)
Susanna and The Brotherhood of Our Lady produce a haunting collection of music and song in this carefully constructed tribute to the iconic paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. Part trance music, part blues, part late-night jazz and strongly reminiscent of scratchy old vinyl discs from car boot sales featuring the young Joni Mitchell or Nina Simone, this is an album that subtly grows on you like a fungus and takes you to previously unseen regions of darkness and light.
“This is not a soundtrack to [Bosch’s] paintings,” Susanna says. “I feel a resemblance between the absurdity in his pictures and today’s existence. Humanity has never been more enlightened and competent to make sustainable solutions for everyone, but we still close our eyes to poverty, environmental issues and lack of equality.”
And yet, for this reviewer at least, the music definitely evokes the surrealism and sadism of Bosch. Ecstasy, in particular, is an intricate soundscape full of disquieting religious imagery with its multi-layered vocals and creative use of sound effects and found tracks; and Exterior, which follows directly after, is eerie and otherworldly and evokes a stillness that makes the listener feel they are in a gallery after dark, viewing Bosch’s scenes of bliss and torture in chiaroscuro and half-light. So it comes as no surprise to learn from the sleeve notes that: “the album was recorded in the extraordinary Ocean Sound Studio on the Northwest coast of Norway, a fully equipped wooden hut that sits on a rocky outcrop at the edge of the sea.”
Certainly not an album for lovers of pop or those who just like to dance, but definitely a classic in the annals of vaguely hippyish avant-garde compositions, and a definite hit with your grumpy old reviewer who is totally enchanted with it.